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Miles Teller is currently onscreen in Whiplash, and if the actor borrowed the title to describe his physical state following a hectic few weeks, well, nobody would blame him.
“The past month since I finished Insurgent has been crazy. I’ve been to Vegas, Mexico, Toronto, Paris, Deauville, L.A., Hawaii, Boston, New York and back to L.A. in one month,” he says with a sigh.
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But it’s a fortunate problem to have if you’re an actor, and he knows that. The 27-year-old is also well aware that his real life looks much different than that of his character — laser-focused yet abused jazz drummer Andrew Neyman — in the Sony Pictures Classics film, directed by first-timer Damien Chazelle. However, they both have suffered through the same brutal side effect of the drumming biz. Teller recently talked to The Hollywood Reporter about what that is, what’s next for him and whether he was really that bored on Divergent.
There’s a lot of blood in the film. Did you have any experiences similar to your character, whose hands get bloody from all the intense drumming?
Yeah I did. When I read the script, it reads like … ‘Blood is splattering on the cymbals and dropping down.’ And I was like, ‘Damien, we’re talking about music here; this isn’t believable.’ And he said, ‘No, no, all my drumsticks were covered in blood.’ As I started practicing four hours a day for a couple days a week for three weeks, I started getting blisters, and my blisters started to bleed and calloused over. All of that was very real.
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How much of the drumming is real?
Everything you see in the movie, I’m drumming. We had a double that sat around for a lot of the time. In terms of the audio you hear, Damien said something like 90 percent of what you’re hearing is me (drumming). So it’s pretty cool, especially because I was not familiar with jazz drumming before this.
Back to blood. You’ve also signed on to play world champion boxer Vinny Pazienza in a film titled “Bleed For This,” executive produced by Martin Scorsese. What drew you to the part?
It spawned from Whiplash. Some of my favorite actors do this intense kind of gritty, dramatic work, and that’s work I’ve always responded to. Everybody wants to do some De Niro stuff or Pacino stuff, or now, it’s like Gosling stuff — he’s the guy who is doing intense work. I wanted to branch away from adolescent roles … and then this came along. What actor doesn’t want to do a boxing movie? Especially one that Martin Scorsese is producing.
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You recently said you were bored while filming Divergent. What was the real issue?
It wasn’t so much bored as it was … that was my first experience on a film of that length — four months. But at the end of the day, do I love going to set everyday? Yeah. With Divergent, I made a lot of good friends, but it came a month after That Awkward Moment, and That Awkward Moment was a string of four movies that I did that year. I think I was more burnt out than bored.
It’s funny, now we’ve both worked with Kate. She was on Insurgent, and I didn’t work with her on Divergent, but I got to know her on Insurgent. Those are two actors who are very, very good, and I thought it was cool that they did a film together with, like, 20 years in between. With Shailene, I would love to work with her once every couple years. We work very similarly, and I think she’s very talented.
What can you tell me about the musical you’re doing with Emma Watson?
It’s Damien’s next film, it’s a love story called La La Land and is set in L.A. Where Whiplash looks at all the pain and the torture and the fear and the anxiety that come with performing music, this one looks at the joy and the love that you get from it. It’s a full musical; there will be dance numbers and I’m singing and Emma’s singing. I play a jazz pianist and she plays an aspiring actress — two people who are falling in love for the first time. The story centers on how their relationship is affected when you’re trying to make it as a couple in L.A. while maybe one person starts to achieve something and the other doesn’t. I’ll finish the boxing movie on Dec. 16, and then I’ll go into rehearsals for this in February to achieve a Gene Kelly-kinda vibe.
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